By Jo Pugh • 17 September 2023 • 9:08
The Port of Tyne, where the haul was discovered. Credit: Graham Robson/Geograph
A member of an organised crime group has been sentenced to prison for his role in an attempt to smuggle cocaine valued at £9.2 million into the North East of England.
Lucasz Sienkiewicz, aged 37, was apprehended by investigators from the National Crime Agency (NCA) who linked him to the largest drug seizure ever recorded at The Port of Tyne in North Shields.
In October 2018, Border Force officers intercepted a truck transporting machine parts from the Netherlands. An x-ray of the vehicle revealed concealed blocks of cocaine hidden in the spare tyres.
The combined weight of these blocks was 115 kilogrammes, with an estimated street value of around £9.2 million.
NCA officers extracted data from the lorry driver’s phone, which indicated communication with Sienkiewicz, who was near the port in another vehicle on the same day. Sienkiewicz was subsequently arrested at his residence in Benwell, Newcastle, two months later.
Messages retrieved from the phone suggested that Sienkiewicz was responsible for receiving and distributing the cocaine through organised crime channels in the UK.
The messages also revealed that Sienkiewicz had gone to the extent of purchasing second-hand tyres in the UK, which were later found to be replacements for the ones containing the drugs on the lorry.
Reporting restrictions on the case were lifted on Thursday, September 14, following a re-trial of the lorry driver, which ended with no majority verdict.
Sienkiewicz was convicted by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court on July 8 last year for his attempt to import cocaine.
Several other members of the organised crime group, all of whom were Polish nationals, were convicted in the Netherlands the previous year. These Dutch-based members of the gang were responsible for concealing the cocaine in the tires and facilitating its transportation to the UK.
NCA Branch Commander Julie Booker stated, “Sienkiewicz was part of an organised crime network involved in trafficking cocaine into the UK and distributing it across the north east of England. The NCA is determined to protect the public from the global trade in illegal drugs, which fuels violence, intimidation, and exploitation in communities throughout the UK.”
Kieren Hamilton, Assistant Director at Border Force North, added, “Drug supply chains are violent and exploitative, degrading neighbourhoods across our country.
The highly professional Border Force officers deployed at the Port of Tyne in North Shields identified this significant quantity of class A drugs as a result of dedicated operational activity, and utilising in depth search skills to detect a sophisticated concealment.
The close collaboration between Border Force and NCA colleagues allowed them to develop this detection into an extended investigation which has culminated in the two successful convictions.”
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Jo Pugh is a journalist based in the Costa Blanca North. Originally from London, she has been involved in journalism and photography for 20 years. She has lived in Spain for 12 years, and is a dedicated and passionate writer.
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